Your helmet’s too tight maybe?

(click to enlarge photos)

I know the whole Ottawa cycling thing has been discussed at length on blogs like David Reevely’s, and I just did a post on the topic just 3 weeks ago, but since then a good friend of mine was knocked down by an Ottawa cyclist.

 

The cyclist was going fast, on the sidewalk, and hit my friend from behind. My friend went down hard and shattered her kneecap. The butt-cavity cyclist kept going even though people in the vicinity went running after and shouting at him to stop.  My friend is pretty much incapacitated for the rest of the summer and who knows how this is going to affect her in the long run.

 

And every day I continue to get winged by cyclists. I yell at them sometimes like some crazy old cane-waving man.  Yesterday at lunchtime I took my camera along and snapped a few offenders on my walk.  If anyone would like to do some bike patrolling, I’d recommend Hog’s Back Road from Riverside to Prince of Wales as an excellent spot. The place is thick with sidewalk cyclists, bridge cyclists and cyclists who can’t read.

 

I took these in less than 10 minutes and didn’t even come close to getting them all.

 

 

 

This guy seemed really annoyed that me and my stinking camera were slowing him down.

 

 

 

 Look at this guy trying to squeeze by the pedestrians on this narrow walkway. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 And, to end on a positive note, I wanted to acknowledge that not all Ottawa cyclists have the IQ of a salad bar (not that I have anything against salad bars)

 

The Essential Guide to Angst-Free Management

As we carefree, flower-children types age, we find ourselves in increasingly responsible positions at our workplace – often against our will and much to our chagrin. This can cause stress and panic because we of the free-love-peace-and-brotherhood-of-all era find it very difficult to take charge, control the work lives of others, give orders, be corporate.

I’ve worked for a lot of different managers, and tried a bit of management myself (and didn’t like it much) so of course I feel completely qualified to be dishing out advice to those who now, reluctantly, find themselves in management positions and want to know how to be effective manager types. The best thing of all, of course,  is to avoid management positions. The added money is never worth the joy it sucks out of your life. 

However, if you absolutely must manage:

  1. Ignore all the management manuals, books and motivational speaker advice.  These people only care about making money by preying on your insecurities.  They don’t care about you and making your working life easier and better. I do. Overall your instincts will be your best guide – much like parenthood. The “experts” are all very interesting, but they’re not living in your shoes.
  2. Don’t fret about your staff.  No matter how kindly they may feel about you, and no matter what you do, a part of them will always resent you for being their financial and hierarchal superior. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
  3. Your main focus should be on getting the job done you are in charge of getting done. Every decision you make should be in support of that.
  4. Your staff will not be entirely comfortable having you for a friend. Do not try to be their friend. Do not follow them to lunch or coffee breaks. They want to be alone to bitch about you.
  5. To show you’re still part of the team, however, and not just an overlord, host a pot-luck lunch at your house occasionally or take them off somewhere for a “team building session” that drags on for the rest of the afternoon. You pay for something to make it a real treat, but not everything
  6. People love to be asked their opinions. Get your staff in one at a time periodically to ask them their opinions on: a) how they feel about their job/how things are going, b) anything they think they could be doing/would like to be doing that they’re not, c)what makes them want to come to work in the mornings and/or is there anything that could be implemented around the office to make them want to come to work in the mornings, c) any ideas they may have to improve productivity, bottom line or whatever it is you’re supposed to be accomplishing.
  7. Bosses are invariably really good talkers.  They have to be because they give lots of presentations, chair meetings, convince people of stuff, double-talk their way into and out of trouble.  Beef up those public speaking skills so you can make short shrift of your peers and competitors.  Then shut-up when dealing with your staff. Let them talk. There is nothing worse than a boss you calls you in to ask your opinion on something and then goes on to give you his for the entire meeting.
  8. Implement some of the ideas and changes your staff suggest. Not all of them – you don’t want to be a pushover – just the ones that makes sense. Talk without action is demoralizing.
  9. Pay people what they’re worth and if you’re not in control wages, give those who particularly deserve it added privileges – something that means something to them. (perhaps a free day off, work on a project that excites them, a new chair/desk/keyboard/office. This shows that you appreciate those that give a little extra to the job. By the same token, show that you notice the slackers by not giving them a raise, a free day off, new office furniture, etc. Equality is all well and good, but it sucks as a motivator.
  10. Lead by example. Very important. Think of what you would consider your ideal employee and then be that person.  Your staff will look to you (perhaps subconsciously) on how to dress, deport themselves around the office, when and how they clock in and out, how much attention to detail they give their work, how they treat and talk about clients; how they treat and talk about their co-workers, and so on and so forth.

All the best in your future endeavours and please be aware that my resume is current and always available for consideration.

Cocinero Delicioso

So, I’m leafing through the recent Ottawa Food Guide on the weekend and come across this:

 

Chef René Rodriguez, owner of the new Basque Restaurant, Navarra on Murray Street in Ottawa. As those who know me can attest, I’m usually pretty laid back, level-headed, cool and collected — stoic even. I tend not to get too excited about things, but holy flippin’ caramba! Muy caliente or what?

He used to be Chef de Cuisine at the Black Cat Café. Then Executive Chef at Luxe Bistro. He was on TV for a while, won awards, yadda yadda, yadda …the guy can cook.

See? Doesn’t he look sizzlingly competent?

The new restaurant has a patio, wine, food, and freakin’ incredibly happy servers.

I wonder why?

“Hi Rene, I need another heapin’ helpin’ of your Wood Roasted Piquillo Peppers.”

“Of course, I’ll work a double shift, Rene and don’t be silly; of course I don’t expect to be paid to work here.”

“I’m ready for my performance appraisal, Mr. Rodriguez.”

Okay, even though there isn’t a single vegetarian item on the menu, I’m anxious to go and try this place. Really anxious.  Don’t you think that if I speak to the chef, personally, he might throw together something spectacular I would enjoy?

So,  how about a Navarra field trip?

Losing the Plot.

Back in May, I posted a picture of the loveliest front yard in the neighbourhood.  I’ve been watching it as it morphs through its various phases.  Last night I took some more photos. I’m not much of a photographer, so these don’t nearly do it justice, but you’ll get the general idea.

I also got to meet the artist as she was tending to her creation and I complimented her on her beautiful front yard.  She took a moment. Studied me carefully and then said, “thank-you”.

She apologized for staring at me, but explained that she wasn’t sure at first if I was being sincere because ever since she started this garden, a couple of years ago, she’s been getting nothing but grief from the neighbours.  They complain constantly that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the neighbourhood and want her to put the lawn back.

I was stunned.

This reminds me of Jo having to take her petunias off the balcony of her condo because management feels they might scratch up the railings.

Or poor Noha, who was taken to task for wearing her modest hijabi swimwear to her condo’s pool. The custodian told her she couldn’t swim in the pool anymore without a regulation swimsuit.

Or the clothesline ban that used to be in effect in Ontario — lifted only because Dalton McGuinty wants to look green.

Or the mural ban that one Ottawa couple found out about when they hired an artist to paint a mural on their garage to cover up the graffiti that kept appearing there.

 

WARNING!! Cataclysmic Hyperbole Pandemic!

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the English language as opposed to, say, a stuck-up language like French, is how very organic English is. It’s constantly evolving along with our civilization. New words are invented by kids or the media or the arts or technology; new grammar develops; or, English is merged with other languages as cultures integrate.

 This is all good.

I’m having a little trouble, though, with the trend toward the misuse of hyperbole. Hyperbole can be very effective when making a point. I do it all the time. But recently it seems like some of our best words are being corroded and weakened due to overuse.

We don’t have weather reports anymore, have you noticed? It’s all “warnings”:

  • Rainfall warning in effect;
  • Wind warnings in outlying areas;
  • UV index warnings (this used to be called “a sunny day”).

In the news every assault is committed by an “animal”; every killer is evil, a monster, or even an “inhuman” monster. Everything a celebrity does is a sensation, inspiring.

People are no longer just famous, they’re “icons” or even “legendary” icons.

Sporting events are always “epic”. I doubt there has been a single sporting event in recent memory that comes close to being an epic. The sports world is particularly keen on hyperbole.  Slaughters , massacres and sudden deaths occur frequently. Titans are usually involved. And, of course, everyone’s a hero.

A hero is someone who risks or sacrifices his/her life; who acts with courage and nobility, not someone who makes several million dollars a year to toss a ball around — no matter how good he is at it.

In the news, bad stuff that happens is always horrific, cataclysmic, disastrous, or apocalyptic.

The Holocaust was horrific –not a 3-car collision.  The sinking of the Titanic was disastrous — not a shortage of PEI potatoes. And, I think, the adjective, “apocalyptic” should be saved up for the actual Apocalypse, if/when it happens. Otherwise, we won’t have a good adjective left to describe it.

Jazz and I had a brief discussion about this recently on her blog.  She noted that “awesome,”  has long ago lost all meaning. There is very little in every day life that actually fills one with awe – the birth of a child, perhaps. Definitely not a good price on flip-flops.

Look what happened to “awful.” Originally it meant, “commanding awe” or “filled with awe”, like maybe the person witnessing the birth of his child is awful.  Now it means something bad. What a shame. The idea of “awe” is one I really like; something we don’t experience enough of; but when it happens I would like to be able to describe it using a word that fully expresses it.

Tragedy is one that, to me, is particularly misused. It’s such an important and fragile word and it’s being devalued.  A tragedy is not just something sad. Lots of sad stuff happens all the time – people die or get killed, children become ill, animals are abused. All these things are sad, frustrating, even distressing but they’re not tragic.

The concept of tragedy is actually quite complex and I don’t like to see it watered down.  Essentially it’s a literary genre involving a main character brought to ruin or suffering extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.

An important part of tragedy is that, in the end, it is somehow meaningful. It’s difficult to apply such a concept to any single event, no matter how wretched.

Lots of great words are becoming ambiguous, devalued and powerless, just to embellish run-of-the-mill stories. An event that provokes a real intellectual or emotional response will carry its own impact without the need for lazy hyperbolic short-cuts.

Is that a cucumber in your pocket?

There was a news story yesterday that the European Union has decided, in light of the current global food shortage, they will no longer be throwing out misshapen fruits and vegetables.  Bendy bananas, quirky cukes and warped wasabi will now appear on shelves as Class 2 produce.

I did a double take and thought, “What? They’ve been throwing out edible vegetables all this time, just because they didn’t look nice?” I don’t why it never occurred to me to wonder about the perfection  of produce available for purchase.

So, I went to visit my local greengrocer to find out more.  I’ll call him Vito.  Vito said, “How YOU doon?”  

After an exchange of pleasantries I put my misshapen produce query to him. Vito said, “Oh ya, tons of produce gets chucked out alla time just ‘cause it ain’t pretty enough”.  

Vito seemed disproportionately angry about the subject.

“Cucumbers, f’rinstance are trone out da most,” said Vito.  “Nobody wants a cucumber than ain’t straight and an’ tote-lee roun’ and tick, ya know?” he added, with a pained look in his eyes.

Poor Vito. I made my escape while he was still mumbling about small, bent cucumbers being just fine with Peking duck or something.

Anyway, I checked the Canadian Food Inspection site for cucumber regulations and was astounded to find that in order to find their way onto our grocery store shelves, seedless cucumbers must:

  • Be practically or fairly straight.  The height of the inner arc of curvature does not exceed 76 mm (3 inches), when measured from a flat surface
  • Be not more than very slightly constricted and not more than moderately or slightly tapered or pointed at either end.
  • Have a good characteristic green colour over at least 85% of its surface area.
  • Have a minimum length of 280 mm (11 inches);
  • Have a minimum diameter of 41 mm (1 5/8 inches)

There are a couple more pages of cucumber regulations on the site if you’d care to read them.

Will Canada follow the EU and begin encouraging nationwide enjoyment of the less-than-perfect cucumber specimens? Would you buy misshapen produce? Will Vito ever find true happiness?

Felix or Oscar?

Some people act like I’m insane for cleaning my house once a week.  They mock me for having a domestic routine.  Until the last week, I thought all grown-ups with permanent residences had dometic routines. Then I mentioned this to some co-workers and they all laughed at me.

I’m flummoxed. Sure, I’ve known people whose homes were a tip; who only did dishes and laundry when they ran out of “clean enough” options, but I figured those were just some rare eccentrics.

To my chagrin, however, yesterday I found myself in a position of having to defend my cleaning schedule!  It’s not like I turn my whole place upside down and inside out every week. I save that for the twice-a-year BIG clean.

My weekly thing (usually Saturdays) just involves:

  • Taking apart the stove and cleaning up the week’s accumulated gunk that I don’t reach during the daily wipe-down.
  • Wiping down the cupboards, fridge, countertops and appliances
  • Wiping down any fingerprints or other schmutz on the walls
  • Sorting out stuff from the fridge and freezer that’s expired and doesn’t need to be there
  • Scrubbing the bathtub, toilets and sinks
  • Dusting all the surfaces (Murphy’s Oil Soap on the good wood)
  • Wiping down baseboards
  • Vacuuming everything
  • Washing the tile floors (Wood floors are only washed every other week)

It only takes a couple of hours, maybe less if the daughter is around to help. Then we do an average of 2 loads of laundry a week- not necessarily on the same day as the cleaning.

I usually have to swiffer the kitchen and bathroom floors at least once more during the week since they seem to accumulate a lot of hair and other yucky stuff, and of course, I clean things in the kitchen as I go (and YES, I do dishes right after every meal). But that’s it.

Apparently, this is all somehow freakishly Stepford or something. It’s not like I enjoy cleaning or anything. I actually hate doing. But I like the end result. Having dirty dishes standing around makes my skin crawl. And, I can’t relax and enjoy being home if things are messy.

So, I’d like to do an informal survey here, as well. Do you have a regular domestic routine or do you wait until you can no longer find the children before cleaning up? (Also, if you have a domestic partner who is the opposite of you, it would be interesting to know how you cope with that, because it would drive me nuts).  Thank you.

Thank you!

A big thanks to both Violetsky and Jazz, for each sending me a Brilliante Blog award. I know there’s no money or fancy golden statue involved or anything, but it’s amazingly heartwarming to have your blog admired by people whose blogs you admire.

 

Now I have to pass the honour on to 7 other bloggers I admire.  I won’t  list any of the people already listed by Jazz and Violetsky, though I do read and enjoy many of their blogs.

 And, I’d love to give the award to more than 7, but here, in no particular order is my list:

 Debra – Because she’s my twin sister and makes me laugh

 Zoom – Because she’s such a lovely mix of hard-hitting local opinion/news pieces and quirky, sometimes poignant personal reflections.

 Brad Brown – Not because he sent me a gargoyle, but because he has such a darned creative blog

 Robin – Because he consistently has the most amazing photographs of an Ottawa most of the rest of us never stop to look at.

 Jo – Because she’s always interesting, sometimes profound and often amazing

 Dee – Because her freakin’ hilarious life is so freakin’ hilarious, I love to read about it and I hope this award will inspire her to blog more.

Something to scare mommy bloggers

Say what you will about young people these days, but you have to give them credit for style.

In decades past teenagers tended to all look alike. There were usually two groups: the good students/jocks; and the rebels. Each group had a dress code, a hairstyle code and an accessory code and most kids stayed pretty much within those boundaries.  

Today, teenagers seem to be so much more creative and individualistic in their styles – or maybe it’s because they have so many more options than kids in the past. So much more music (which usually defines hair and clothing styles) and so much more stuff in general. Look at all the products and hardware that are available just for hair.

Of course, teenagers still work within some form of boundary, but there seems to be a lot more leeway for personal expression. My daughter and some of her friends are into a style called, Scene.

 Scene apparently evolved from emo.  Emo is kind of dark, self-destructive and depressing, but shouldn’t be confused with goth, which I think spawned emo, and is also dark and depressing. Anyway,  a lot of parents freak out when their kids start going goth or emo. And I can understand that.

Some parents also freak out when their kids go Scene. And I’ve heard negative things about it — mainly that Scene kids get all superior and uppity and super-self absorbed.  But that mainly just sounds like teenagehood to me and all in all, I think they look kind of cute.

I don’t really see the connection to the whole goth/emo thing because Scene is bright (very), positive, and cheerful. So, really it’s kind of anti-emo in my books, but then maybe I’m not completely hep to the Scene scene.

What I do know is that in general, Scene kids are into indie and retro music: 80’s new wave or classic rock, but there aren’t any hard and fast rules about that.  They’re very arty – into photography (love to take pictures of themselves and paste them all over Facebook or MySpace), creative writing, visual arts.  They love tattoos and piercings (no, my daughter will not be having either). And they often have a passion for animal rights and other tree-huggy stuff.

Superficially they have, choppy haircuts often dyed black or with colored stripes. They use lots of bright make-up — pinks, purples, blues and thick black eyeliner.  They wear tight, skinny pants/leggings and very bright colors, band or kids t-shirts (also very tight). Lots of bright, colourful accessories – bows, beads, belts, big, big sunglasses.

Bonus:  Though  there are mall boutiques that sell some of this stuff, a lot of the best Scene gear can be found in thrift and vintage shops.

Drawback: Scene kids spend a LOT of time on Facebook.

Bonus: I’ll have one hilarious photo album to embarass her with for the rest of her life once she grows out of this.

 Here are some photos of Scenesters. Some I pilfered from the internet and some are of my daughter.  I didn’t want  her to be too identifiable, so the selection was limited.

 

 

Sometimes I’m Mean…

 

 

  1. When I sit way in the back on the bus and put my bag on the seat next to me and avoid eye contact so no one will sit with me. (Of course if it’s the last seat or someone asks to sit down I’ll move my bag).
  2. When I pointedly change seats whenever the 2-pack a day woman sits next to me on the bus first thing in the morning. (I keep the gagging noises to myself)
  3. When I deliberately walk down the very middle of the sidewalk swinging my arms wildly when I see a bicycle approaching.
  4. When I go along with accidentally-on-purpose forgetting to invite the really horrible, obnoxious woman in our unit to lunch with us. (Then I feel justified when she goes to our Director and tells her we’re being mean to her)
  5. When I won’t play a board game with my daughter which she loves so much just because I’m tired and I hate, hate board games.
  6. When I bump and touch and smack the front of a car that’s stopped in the crosswalk and I’m making a big show of trying to stay within the lines of the crosswalk and there are only 2 inches between the car and the last line.
  7. When the 3rd, 4th or 5th card that week makes its rounds at work for someone’s birthday or wedding or retirement or baby shower or get well or whatever and I can’t even picture who the person is and I don’t sign the card or leave any money in it.
  8. When I don’t answer the phone because call display tells me it’s a friend who always  likes to talk for a really, really long time and I’m very content with my book at the moment.
  9. When it’s going home time and I’m stuck in yet another pointless meeting and I excuse myself saying I have to be somewhere. “Sorry, I would have cancelled had I known about this meeting sooner.” And, I don’t really have to be anywhere except away from there and everyone I leave behind looks at me wistfully but they have to stay because their workday doesn’t end for another hour or two. (And you wonder why, with such commitment, I haven’t been promoted to Grand Overlord yet)
  10. When someone retires, because I’m usually the first one in the office, I get to pillage the retired person’s office first and take all the good stuff before the others get in. (I scored a vintage kaleidoscope and a mini-dartboard that tells your fortune just the other day – also a useful task light).
  11. When I get into the express line at the grocery store even though I have two or three items over the limit but the other lines are 8 deep.
  12. When I’m in a department store and I walk by something that falls off the hanger or shelf and I don’t pick it up and put it back; or when I put something in my cart and later decide I don’t want it and I don’t bring it back to where it belongs.